Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island (2010)

Plot: The film is about two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), investigating the escape of a criminally insane patient. The story takes place on the secluded (and fictional) Shutter Island in Boston Harbor. Immediately, director Martin Scorsese creates the feeling that everyone on the island has something to hide. The staff look at the marshals as if they are enemies instead of government officials trying to aid in their search.
As soon as the film starts, there is a foreboding feeling surrounding the island that is aided by the films excellent score. The first wide shot of the island brings forth memories of King Kong and later, when the marshals enter the main gate, Jurassic Park. The entire film is film noir at its finest. All of the pieces of film noir are here. The 1950's time period; the up-close, smoky shots; the heavy weather effects; and most importantly, the flawed protagonist. Teddy Daniels is a mess with a morally objectionable past. He is an ex-alcoholic veteran of World War II who witnessed and partook in atrocities. His memories haunt him throughout the film in dreams and trippy, drug-like flashbacks that are very interesting to watch. Teddy desperately needs a shrink. As his partner, Chuck, tells him, "Teddy, you are wounded."
Leonardo DiCaprio does an excellent job in the lead role. Teddy is extremely smart. When arriving at the island his eyes are constantly surveying everything. Everyone is a potential suspect. As the film progresses and his past continually haunts him, Teddy develops subtle nervous twitches. Leonardo DiCaprio is at the top of his game in this role.
Most importantly, what drags the film down is the twist of plot towards the end. You won't know all of the island's secrets until the very end where the movie actually needs a character to explain the entire plot. This scene literally lasts 15 minutes because the twist makes the plot incredibly convoluted and pretty much nonsensical.

Conclusion: What happens with the plot is a shame considering how well the film worked until the point of revelation. Having read the book (written by Dennis Lehane), Martin Scorsese did the best he could with the source material. The film follows the book almost exactly. If you see Shutter Island, expect that you may be disappointing. This is a film reliant on the feeling it gives the viewer. It's the kind of film where ominous piano notes play as clues to the mystery are revealed and a single solitary light hangs above a radio operator in an otherwise pitch dark, smoky room. There is a lot to like about Shutter Island and a lot to be longed for and this is coming from someone who loves film noir. It is an interesting film. It shows the amazing versatility and skill of its director, Martin Scorsese, but is ultimately held back by its plot. It is so well made that it's impossible to stop watching. It draws you in until the very end. However, when the credits finally roll there is a sense that it could have been something truly extraordinary instead of merely mediocre. -Steve N.